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With COVID-19 hospitalizations spiking across New York, the state will be introducing additional micro-cluster zone metrics that take hospitalizations into account to try to avoid overwhelming hospital capacity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that new metrics will be forthcoming but said the state would not decide specific metrics until officials can gauge the probable impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on hospitalization rates — which will be later this week at the earliest.

An anticipated spike in COVID infections resulting from Thanksgiving socializing won’t be evident for seven to 10 days after the holiday, Cuomo said, when infected people begin to experience symptoms.

Infection rates and hospitalizations are already on the increase across the state even before the impacts of the holiday are felt. And Thanksgiving, Cuomo warned, is just the beginning of a 37 day holiday season that will mean more socializing, more gatherings — and more COVID infections as a result.

COVID hospitalizations in New York rose to 3,532 yesterday, an increase of 160 people and the highest number of hospitalizations since the spring peak.

The state’s test positivity rate rose to 4.57% yesterday, with a seven-day average of 3.7%.

Suffolk County’s test positivity rate soared to 4.8% yesterday, the highest it’s been since late May. It’s the fourth day in November that Suffolk County has reported a positivity rate above 4%; all four days have been in the past week. The county’s seven-day average rose to 4.1%.

Suffolk also reported 4,207 new cases in the past week, the highest weekly total since late April.

The test positivity rate in the Riverhead micro-cluster focus zone has been declining. The Riverhead focus zone’s test positivity rate was 2.87% yesterday, according to data from the State Department of Health. The seven-day average in the focus zone is currently 3.49%, down from a seven-day average of 4.49% on Nov. 28.

The state does not provide data on the number of positive results or the number of tests reported for residents in the focus zone, which encompasses most of the hamlet of Riverhead in the Town of Riverhead, the hamlet of Riverside and parts of the hamlets of Northampton and Flanders in the Town of Southampton.

Cases, hospitalizations rise in Riverhead

The number of confirmed cases in the Town of Riverhead rose to 1,144 as of yesterday. The state does not provide the number of tests reported or the testing positivity rates for individual towns and hamlets.

Peconic Bay Medical Center had 35 COVID in-patients today, four of whom were in the intensive care unit, according to data provided by the hospital. In-patient admissions have more than tripled at PBMC in less than two weeks. There are about 15 to 20 people coming to the hospital’s emergency room daily who are either symptomatic COVID-positive patients or are there with COVID-like symptoms.

Riverhead schools complete fourth day of testing

The Riverhead school district continues testing students, faculty and staff in its school buildings in the Riverhead focus zone. Today, 53 people were tested and four were positive. Interim Superintendent Christine Tona said in a letter to the community. Since in-school testing began on Nov. 20, 589 people have been tested and 16 have been positive — a 2.7% test positivity rate.

In addition, over the Thanksgiving weekend, two middle school teachers tested positive, Tona said.

Due to the number of staff that need to quarantine at Riley Avenue Elementary School, Riley Avenue students will continue remote instruction through Dec. 7 rather than Dec. 1 as hoped, Tona said today. Students may return to in-person instruction by cohort on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Riley.

Riverhead High School will continue remote instruction through Dec. 4 and return to in-person instruction by cohort on Dec. 7, Tona said.

The other schools in the district are currently following the hybrid model.

Health officials urge people to get tested

Health officials are urging anyone who traveled during the Thanksgiving weekend or who attended a holiday gathering with people other than members of their household to get tested for COVID-19. The virus can be spread by people who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, so testing is necessary to identify infected individuals who can then self-isolate. Testing also allows contact-tracing to take place. These measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus in the community.

Free COVID testing is available by appointment at the county center in Riverside. Call: 1-845-553-8030.

Free COVID testing is also available by appointment at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. Call: 1-833-422-7369.

New York stats: Nov. 29

New tests reported: 148,974
New confirmed cases: 6,819
Tests percent-positive: 4.57%

Total confirmed cases to date: 647,980

New hospital admissions: 457
Patients hospitalized: 3,532
Patients in ICU: 681
Patients on ventilators: 325

Deaths: 54
Total deaths: 26,747

Suffolk Stats: Nov. 29

New tests reported: 13,745
New confirmed cases: 658
Tests percent-positive: 4.8%

Total confirmed cases to date: 61,072

New hospital admissions: 35
Patients hospitalized: 248
Patients in ICU: 46
Patients on ventilators: 12
Deaths: 4
Total deaths: 2,053

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.